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Should Covid Restrictions Be Eased in Orkney ?

Orcadians have until this Friday, 26th of March , to respond to a Scottish Government consultation on easing up covid restrictions in Orkney.

To date (24th of March), there have been 71 positive cases of Covid recorded in Orkney. This is the lowest number recorded in any local authority in Scotland.

Mainland Scotland has been in a ‘Stay at Home’ Message for months but on 2nd of April that will change to a ‘Stay Local’ message (retaining the current, local authority-based travel restrictions for at least a three-week period).

Then there will be a phased reopening with travel within mainland Scotland opening up on 26th of April. There will still be restrictions in place right into the start of summer.

The Scottish Government Islands Team issued this ‘consultation’:

It has to be filled in and emailed back to them by this Friday 26th of March.

James Stockan, Leader of Orkney Islands Council is keen to get travel restrictions to our islands lifted.

He said:

“It is vital for the recovery of our economy – and for the good of our tourism sector in particular – that current travel restrictions in and out of Orkney are lifted as soon as possible. We must not be out of step with the rest of Scotland on this or our economy will continue to suffer greatly.

“At the same time, it is vital for the wellbeing of our community that we can visit family, friends and neighbours in our homes once again. That’s crucial given our community’s magnificent response in observing the rules and keeping Covid-19 transmission to a minimum. There should be praise too for the tourists who travelled to Orkney, when this was allowed for a time last year. They also showed great responsibility and great respect for our community.

“I’m asking the Scottish Government to move Orkney to the lowest level possible based on the fact that we have had no cases in our community over many weeks and that the vaccination programme in Orkney is rolling out so effectively.

“But we are stressing there must be no barriers to travel between Orkney and the mainland. Folk will continue to follow the FACTS and act responsibly once again when travelling to Orkney.”

As of 24th of March the stats for Scotland are as follows:

  • 692 new cases of COVID-19 reported
  • 25,694 new tests for COVID-19 that reported results – 3.1% of these were positive
  • 3 new reported death(s) of people who have tested positive
  • 31 people were in intensive care yesterday with recently confirmed COVID-19
  • 321 people were in hospital yesterday with recently confirmed COVID-19
  • 2,249,612 people have received the first dose of the Covid vaccination and 249,252 have received their second dose

This chart shows that across mainland Scotland there are still positive cases of Covid occurring in significant numbers

Vaccination uptake has been very high but the numbers who have had the second dose are quite low – only 249,252 in Scotland as a whole. There are new variants of Covid and it is not yet known how well protected people will be against some of these particularly if they have only had the first dose. It does give some protection and the high uptake is extremely encouraging.

There are supply issues with the vaccine and it will be quite some time before all those who have had the first dose will get their second one. People are still travelling into the UK and it looks like a Third Wave of the pandemic is about to hit Europe.

It is crucial that the Orkney economy opens up more fully but can this be done safely if visitors can freely come into the islands without any pre-checks?

This has been an unbelievable year of damage not just to the economy but to the mental and physical wellbeing of us all. It is not hard to imagine that people from mainland Scotland, and other parts of the UK, would see travel to Orkney, with such low recorded cases of Covid, as a great place to get away to. Covid travels with people. If travel restrictions are completely lifted as Councillor Stockan desires with ‘ no barriers to travel between Orkney and the mainland’ that’s quite a gamble to take.

Brough of Birsay

3 replies »

  1. I think the April 26th date can be delayed if the future numbers do not improve enough.

    I would only support the relaxation of travel from the mainland (air or sea) if an effective testing/isolation system is in place (there may not be time now to set it up).

    It is not a simple task – testing required at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen, ‘Sumburgh?’ for air passengers and Scrabster, Aberdeen, Gills Bay, JoG, ‘Sumburgh?’ for sea passengers.

    The questionnaire is too binary and I am not confident the extra comments in the large box will be taken into account when an overall result is being evaluated

  2. The ‘economy’ isn’t a lot of good to a person if they are dead, or suffering a long term illness resulting from Covid.

    Stockan’s approach makes me more angry than I can say.

    The rest of this article is more to the point – much more.

    • The ‘economy’… there used to be a time when children were told by their parents when planning their future, they should look for jobs in crisis resilient sectors. Notwithstanding the problems, many business owners faced with having to pay running costs for businesses on hold or closed… at some point over the last year, some should perhaps have realised that a pandemic can be a longer situation and oriented themselves towards ways where they could either safely function or find innovative ways to earn a living. Resilience also means a capability to adapt and transform. To naively believe that it would all be over soon and now expect the public to take risks for a period of trading (which might be short-lived if travel leads to new cases, perhaps even with vaccine resistant strains), will not save the economy. In fact it will make it worse because at some point public purses will be drained by the support which had been granted before.
      The economy is best protected if the virus is kept under strict control, during previous pandemics regions who managed this were back on their feet earlier than others who opened up too quickly.
      Perhaps Stockan should have followed developments on the Isle of Man…they had to go back into lockdown quite quickly after they opened up for the first time.
      I sometimes wonder what (if any) qualification this man has to justify him in this position.

      In my opinion it would be counterproductive and rather risky to allow other than essential travel. And it was about time that pre-departure testing (without exemption, for everyone undertaking an essential journey) was introduced at airports and ports. This is far less complicated than it seems.

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